Namaste, Welcome to India in Classrooms’ Module 1 on Indian history and culture. This module is titled ‘The importance of knowledge in ancient India’. This presentation does not claim superiority of the Indian civilization; neither does it hope to preach any religion. The sole purpose of this presentation is to provide general knowledge about India and to correct stereotypes. India, is a multicultural, secular, (meaning multi-religious) nation. Ancient Indian civilization was based on Hindu culture, therefore our focus in this presentation is the History of Hindu culture. You will have an opportunity to learn about the history of India’s other major religions through your social studies unit on Europe, China, Japan and Islam.
Have you heard the story about the organs in the body that argued over which one of them was the most important? Which would you think is the most important? I would agree if you say that our body would be incomplete even if the smallest organ was missing. Every part of our body contributes to its well being. This principle applies to the many civilizations on this planet. Every civilization has contributed to our modern civilization. Indian, Chinese, Greek Roman, Mayan Egyptian. None is superior to the other and none more significant. The only difference is that each civilization peaked at a different time. So our modern civilization shares a combined heritage. Which civilization is at its peak today? Can you guess? That’s right. Today, the American civilization is the most influential and powerful on this planet. Yet there was a time when America was barren land and India was at its peak. India was rich and very powerful. This presentation is about that India which many of you are unaware of. Image Sources: http://www.nd.edu/~col/images/pyramids.gif PYRAMIDS http://www.nd.edu/~col/images/pyramids.gif PARTHENON http://sino-meetings.com/42iscos/image/changcheng.jpg GREAT WALL
How did civilization begin in India? Rivers have always been the source of life and civilization all over the world. The Vedic civilization grew within the river basin of two humungous rivers, the Sindhu and Saraswati rivers in Northern India. Please repeat the names Suh-RuSS-Vuh-TEE and SIN-DHOO. (It is important for you to remember these names because this is where the OLDEST civilization in the world, the VEDIC civilization developed). Many of the original names of rivers and places in India have been corrupted by those who colonized or invaded India. India was never the original name of this land. India’s original name was BHAARAT. It was probably the name of a tribal prince. The name India has come about just as many other words have evolved in time. This is how it happened: The name of the river Sindhu was changed to ‘Hindus’ by the Persian invaders, who replaced the ‘S’ sound with an ‘H’ sound. Sindhu and Saraswati rivers have therefore been recorded as Hindu and Harahwati in the Persian Zend Avesta manuscripts of the ancient Zoroastrians. They also referred to the Vedic people, who lived on the banks of these rivers as HINDU people. So Hinduism is really ‘VEDISM’. By the time the British arrived, the Saraswati river had dried up. The British further changed the name of the river Sindhu to Indus and the original name of this land, Bhaarat, became INDIA! However, the Indians still prefer to use the term Bhaarat or Hindustan, (land of the Hindus) particularly in the non-English newspapers and media. The Vedic civilization grew remarkably to spread all over the world. We see its influence today in many of our common words and customs across the globe. Many of our global traditions have a common basis but different forms of practice. This will be discussed further in Module 2. The Vedic civilization was known for its peaceful culture based on gaining wisdom. People who faced religious persecution in their homelands, took refuge in India, just as the Statue of Liberty welcomed people from different parts of the world. People of different religions and cultures could live freely in ancient India as they do today. Chinese travelers came to study and some of them remained. This is how Indian society changed constantly over the centuries absorbing new cultures: Zoroashtrians from Persia fled Islamic terror; the Syrian Christians were the earliest Christians to arrive. Jews came centuries ago to practice their faith peacefully in India, The Tibetans escaped from Chinese domination.
The Indian civilization grew to be extremely influential because of its rich resources such as minerals, spices, silks and metals. They produced medicine, perfumes and ornaments. Therefore it attracted a lot of travelers and traders from countries as far as Spain, Portugal and Denmark. Most importantly, India had scientific knowledge that did not exist anywhere else in the world at the time. Traders came to buy the wealth of goods that India had to offer and also took back knowledge. The Arabs and Greeks studied Math and Science in India and carried it back to the west. There was a great demand for spices in Europe as they would help to preserve their foods and rotting meat. Initially it was the Arabs who were the middlemen for trade between Europe and India. Later Europeans wanted to eliminate the middlemen and trade directly with Indians. It was, in fact, during one of his voyages in search of India that Christopher Columbus lost his way and found himself in America. That is when he made the colossal mistake of referring to the Native Americans as ‘Indians’ and many Americans continue to make that mistake even today! Ancient Indians were very adventurous people who sailed as far as South America and Indonesia. The word Navigation comes from a combination of two Sanskrit words, ‘Nava-Gati’, which means the science of the sea. Image Sources: COLUMBUS: http://sino-meetings.com/42iscos/image/changcheng.jpg Vasco da Gama : www.keralaeverything.com/ his.htmvasco.gif Ship: The Story of India for Children by Gratian Vas. (This book is not entirely up to date in its information) Steel image: Tell me more about India by Swarn Khandpur
The language which they spoke in ancient India and in many places even today, was Sanskrit, which is the oldest language in the world. Indians use it today in their prayers, weddings and it is once again becoming popular in many parts of the world. Many of our world languages have evolved from Sanskrit. It is highly sophisticated phonetically and is said to be an ideal language for computer programming. Let me explain my greeting. “Namaste!” is a combination of two Sanskrit words, Namah –Aste, Meaning, ‘the God in me salutes the God in you’. We say this because we understand that God exists in every being. This is explained in detail in the next module. ‘Namaste’ is a form of greeting as well as a farewell. Image Sources: http://home.flash.net/~patelvk/Sanskrit.html SANSKRIT TEXT http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=www.nb.no/baser/schoyen/ SANSKRIT BOOK
Here are some familiar words in English that have come to us from Sanskrit or as we say, have their roots in Sanskrit. The name David has Sanskrit roots. Do we have a David in this class? Da –vid (pronounced ‘daa- vid’ in Sanskrit) is the ‘giver of knowledge’. ‘Da’ in Sanskrit is ‘to give’ (daan becomes donate) and ‘vid’ is ‘wisdom’ that comes from seeing and knowing. Even the word ‘know’ comes from ’jna’ the Sanskrit root for ‘ to know’.
Here is what two famous and brilliant individuals had to say about India’s contribution to modern civilization.
So who were these great scholars that brought India its knowledge and its greatness? It is important for you to know the names of some of India’s great scholars and scientists as they laid the foundations of modern science and were responsible for India being a world leader at one time. Do you recognize this person? You might not for he is hardly ever shown in our text books. This is the incredible doctor, Sushruta, (repeat SUSH-ROO-TA). Since India was ruled by the British for 200 years, many of its scientific achievements that took place before the British rule, were ignored by the British and European historians and that is why India’s accomplishments are unknown to most of us. Sushruta, first performed complicated surgeries like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery along with other health scientists, long before surgery had developed anywhere in the world. This is his clinic and he is surrounded by his nurse and students of medicine as they watch him perform an operation upon his patient. Image Sources: www.bnaiyer.com/ studies/ayurveda2.html
Patanjali (repeat ‘Paa-tunn-juh-lee’) is another famous Indian that you should know. You have all heard about yoga and some of you might even practice it. This form of exercise-cum-meditation helps to keep your mind and body in balance. Most importantly, yoga sharpens the brain to help you think clearly. Earlier yoga was only known to the sages (holy men) but 2200 yrs ago Patanjali made it simple enough for ordinary people to practice yoga and gain from it. This statue of Patanjali sitting upon a snake is not a yogic pose, but a symbolic piece of art. (We shall be discussing symbolism in India in Module 2) The snake is not considered a symbol of evil in India. It represents the ‘snake-like energy’ that runs through our body. So, the statue in the slide shows that Patanjali would control that inner energy with yoga. Since the ancient Indians were not an aggressive people, they did not assert their accomplishments. That is why many discoveries and theories have been wrongly credited to Europeans and Arabs. This was also partly because the Christian and Muslim civilizations wanted to prove their supremacy over other cultures. Many of the Hindu practices were based on scientific understanding. Yet these practices were dismissed by the Muslims and Europeans who came to India as superstition and nonsense. Today modern science agrees that yoga helps the mind and body. Modern science also understands the effect of sound on the brain. Ancient Hindus used chanting of “Om” and other verses to control their thoughts. Image Sources: www.jayananda.info/ index.php?topic=johdanto
Another scientist of genius was Aryabhata. (repeat…Aar-yuh-bhutt-uh) Notice how all these gentlemen appear to be sages (holy men) unlike the scientists that you are used to seeing in modern times. That is because these scholars were indeed sages. The scientific discoveries and theories that they made did not exist in any library or books anywhere in the world. So where did they get all this knowledge from? It came from deep meditation. It came from within. This was their religion. To seek knowledge and search for the meaning of our existence. To search for the truth.
The quest for knowledge led to many discoveries and theories. The zero as used by Indian mathematicians first and for a long time before the Arab traders came to India and discovered it in 770 AD. They took this knowledge and shared it with the west. But in Europe, people were unwilling to accept the idea of ‘zero’ till as late as the 8th century AD The word Trignometry comes from the Sanskrit, ‘tri-kona-miti’ and the word geometry from ‘gya-aa-miti’. Another mathematician/ astronomer Bhaskaracharya, calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. Time taken by earth to orbit the sun: (5th century) 365.258756484 days. Quadratic equations were formulated by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 10**53 (10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000 BCE during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera 10**12(10 to the power of 12). .
Budhayana, another ancient scholar explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem in the 6th century long before Pythagoras did. The pioneer of wireless communication was Prof. Jagdeesh Bose and not Marconi. Hu Shih’s quote shows that the Hindu culture promoted peace and harmony and spread to other countries without any forced conversions.
Research in medicine, psychology, and other scientific areas continued for centuries in India long before any such activity in Europe or China. The Theory of Evolution was known long before Darwin was born. This culture of searching for the truth and the pursuit of knowledge began ever since human beings began to think. This meant thousands of years before the birth of Christ. It was called the VEDIC culture. Meaning, the culture of wisdom which comes from seeing and knowing. These people who could ‘see’ were the called the seers or in Sanskrit, RISHI. Rishis were men and women who could understand through deep meditation and yogic practice, all that there is to know about our existence.
The Rishis understood nature’s laws that govern our existence and could explain why things happen through verses which they chanted. These chants were passed down orally from generation to generation until writing became possible. All these verses together are what we call the VEDA, which in Sanskrit means ‘What is seen’. But VEDA does not mean literally “to see with your two eyes”. It means, “to SEE with your third eye-which is your ‘mind’s eye’ ’’. When you understand something, what do you say? “I SEE!” What you really mean is that you see with your mind’s eye. The sanskrit word for knowledge is ‘VIDYA’, another popular Indian name. Over thousands of years these verses grew as more and more observations were made by thousands of people, many of whom are hardly mentioned, since they did not seek recognition You know that we say ‘Video’ for what we see. The Latin phrase, “veni-VEDI-vici” meaning “I came- I SAW-I conquered” includes the Sanskrit word ‘vedi’. Naturally, the Veda are sacred as they contain so much knowledge. The part of the Veda that was ‘heard’ is called the SHRUTI. When the Veda could finally be ‘memorized’ and documented manuscripts, were called the SMRITI. Incidentally, Smriti and Shruti are two popular Indian names.
So the Veda became a compilation of layers and layers of knowledge, which accumulated through the efforts of generations of Indian scientists and scholars. No one person is given all the credit for this knowledge as it was accumulated over a period of time. Apart from scientific knowledge, the Vedas contain words of wisdom and codes of conduct that are based on years of experience. Over the centuries, many of these sacred texts have been destroyed by invaders. Yet, the knowledge in these texts can never be destroyed for it exists all around us and continues to exist in nature. That knowledge will always be available to us over and over again in time.
Most of the Rishis lived as hermits and would teach those who came to learn from them. As teachers they were called Gurus. The Sanskrit word for a teacher is Guru. These Rishis would live in their hermitage in the forest. Students would stay at the hermitage with the Guru where he would pass his knowledge down to the students orally, through recitation of chants and hymns. The school was referred to as a ‘GURUKOOL’. Naturally the popular sport at the time was archery. Many students came from royal homes and would require those skills in the future. Note the low table used for writing by the guru. It was very important for students to leave behind all their valuable possessions as well as fancy clothing to focus on learning. They would even tie their hair in a knot or simply shave it off to avoid being distracted by it. Leaving home to study in the forest was very significant occasion in ancient India. It would be the last time that the mother fussed over her child and the children enjoyed the comforts of home. They would now learn to live a hard and simple life away from their families. This was considered a rite of passage. It is similar to the Bar Mitzvah of the Jews. Today many Indian families celebrate this rite of passage as a symbolic practice. You might be invited to such a ceremony for a friend although not all modern Indians choose to shave their heads during the ceremony or downsize their wardrobes!
The Gurus were therefore the most important people in society and highly respected. Their status in society was even greater than the rulers, since they would advise the king on major decisions. Over the years, many of these learned people became priests in the villages. They passed knowledge down to their children and there was a whole community of priests that grew. This community chose to be known as BRAHMANS (BRAAH-MUNNS) as they believed they were closest to ‘God’, that is referred to as the BRAHMAN (BRUH-MUNN) by the ancient Indian scholars. This was the most learned class of society and many of the rules of society were formed by the Brahmans. THE CASTE SYSTEM During Ram’s time there was tremendous prosperity and people were happy. Ancient Indian society was a model society for a long time. They had a very efficient system to keep the social balance. It was a ‘Caste system’ that was based on family professions. For example if everyone became computer engineers in California, there would be very few doctors, lawyers and other professionals that are needed to run our country. Our society would collapse. So people in ancient India would follow the same professions as their ancestors to continue the tradition and to ensure that the community excelled in that certain profession. We know from Module 1 that the Gurus or the Brahmans topped the social ladder. So here is a picture of how the society looked in ancient India. The King looked up to the Guru. The merchants and noble class took care of the administration and trade for the King. The laborers worked for the merchants and supported the day to day needs of the kingdom. They were farmers, potters, weavers, millers etc. There was another class of people who collected the garbage, cremated the dead and did some of the jobs that none of the others refused to do. This system worked well as long as all people were treated with respect. Unfortunately, the Brahmans, who became very powerful, abused their position in society. They began to make up rules that would suit their own interests. They would look down upon those who did menial jobs and ill treated them. They forgot their responsibility as role models for the Hindu society. Their greatest crime was withholding knowledge from those who were not Brahmans. This created lack of educaton and a lot of discontentment among the people. The caste system began to fail. Sadly it was the Brahmans who had raised the Hindu civilization to great heights and they caused it to disintegrate. It was the beginning of the downfall of this great civilization. Yet the Hindu culture that was based on scientific knowledge had been strongly established and has remained alive to this day. What is this scientific basis of Hinduism?
When the Indians built temples they served primarily, as places of learning. The temples were built so that people could gather in the big hall (the Mandap) where the Brahmans would teach the people of that village. Inside the sanctum, the inner-most room, there would be a statue of a popular deity, which is a form of God. This deity was often any figure that represented God to the people in the village. We shall be discussing the figures of God in Ancient India in Module 2. The temples in North and South India were similar in structure internally, except that their domes varied in shape. Can you tell the difference between a temple and a mosque when you see one?
Similarly, places of learning were destroyed. The Muslims from Central Asia believed that India was a paradise with its perfumes and medicines. They were also afraid of the knowledge that the Indians had. They wanted to destroy what they thought was a superior civilization. Since knowledge was sacred to ancient Indians, it is not surprising that the world&apos;s first university the Takshila University was founded in 700 BC, in Takshila, north India. It produced many of the worlds great scholars and scientists such as Panini, the famous Sanskrit grammarian, Kautilya who wrote Arthashastra and Charaka, the famous physician of ancient India, and Chandragupta Maurya the ruler. The world&apos;s first six storied residential university, University of Nalanda, was established in India around 500 years before the birth of Christ. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. It has been written about in the chronicles of Greek and Chinese travelers. This university like many others later, was destroyed by the Islamic invaders. They targeted the universities and places of learning since education had brought prosperity to these kingdoms.
The knowledge of the Dravid-Arya people was useful to develop their Saraswati based ancient Indian civilization. Mathematics helped in the construction of sophisticated buildings and cities. Knowledge of hygiene and food preservation helped develop efficient systems of distribution of food and an excellent drainage system. Metal craft was used to develop metal tools and useful objects. The Indian civilization was therefore the most progressive civilization in the world at the time.
One of greatest the periods of the history of Indian civilization was during the reign of King Ram. It is said that Ram was an ideal king who was admired by all. Even today Ram is considered to be a form of God by many Hindus. Ram’s popularity spread to the East and West.
In January 2002 the city of DWARKA was discovered off the west coast of India. The carbon-dating of objects showed that the civilization was 9000 years old. Dwarka had gone under as the sea rose and the city was destroyed by floods. Just as the American culture has traveled to many countries across the globe, Hindu culture influenced many parts of the world. It sailed to South America, to the Far east and to the Middle East.
More evidence of Hindu culture in Laos, Thailand and the Indonesian island of Bali. Thailand was originally known as SIAM. This is an English corruption of the word SHYAM, which means dark skinned, in Sanskrit
The name CAMBODIA to is a corruption of the original Vedic name ‘KHAMBUJYA’ meaning children of KHAMBU a vedic prince who traveled from India to settle in this land.
Historian Will Durant summed up ancient India’s significance in the world when he said this............
Unfortunately, this great civilization also attracted invaders such as the Persians, Greeks, the Turks, the Huns and the Mongols. As foreign invaders came to India, some settled there. There is a pass in the Himalayas that is now known as the Hindu Kush (meaning the slaughter of the Hindus). This was the route from where the Indians were taken in masses as slaves or tortured and killed by the Islamic armies that descended upon India. The downfall of the Indian civilization came about when the Brahmans, who were the highest social class began to abuse their power and withhold Vedic knowledge from the people of other classes. The Indian kings also who fought amongst themselves for power and weakened the original Vedic civilization. This made it easy for the Muslims invaders and the European missionaries to convert many of the weaker lower classes, the uneducated Indians, to Islam and Christianity. Of course during the rule of Islamic kings, many Indians were also forced to convert to Islam. When the Europeans, including the Portuguese, French, the Dutch and the British, came supposedly to trade, they converted many Indians to Christianity. During British rule VEDIC EDUCATION became almost extinct and out of reach to common Indians. Western culture prevailed and Indians were intimidated into rejecting the study of the VEDAS, the search for the truth. Sadly this great civilization, which rose because of its treasury of Knowledge, eventually declined because of lack of knowledge.
Today the culture of ancient India continues to enrich and contribute to our modern civilization through the Indians who have settled in many parts of the world. Indian dance, music, art, yoga, chess, and even languages are fast becoming popular in the rest of the world. It shows how strong the Vedic culture or Hindu culture is, to have survived centuries of Muslim invasions and European colonial rule. That is why the Sanskrit name for Hinduism is ‘Sanatana Dharma’ meaning the Law of Eternity. We hope that you have enjoyed this presentation. If you have any comments, suggestions, corrections or questions please write to email@example.com Namaste!
The peak of Hindu Civilization
The art of navigation
originated in ancient
India in 6000BC
India attracted sailors like
Vasco Da Gama
Indians were the first to make Steel,
an alloy of iron and carbon This
highly valued metal was exported in
with sounds that explore
every part of the throat
We owe a lot to the Indians,
who taught us how to count,
no worthwhile scientific discovery
could have been made.
the cradle of the human race,
the birthplace of human speech,
the mother of history, the grandmother of legend,
and the great grand mother of tradition.
Our most valuable and most instructive materials
in the history of man are treasured up
in India only.
2600 years ago
Anesthesia well known in
Over 125 surgical
equipment were used.
available t o
Theory of earth being a
sphere and rotating
around its axis
India’s first satellite was
First to give the closest
value of ‘Pi’ as 3.1416
CONCEPT OF ZERO ORIGINATED IN
Algebra, trigonometry and calculus
came from India thousands
of years before Euclid
TRIKONAMITI means Measuring Triangular Forms
GYAAMITI (Measuring the Earth) is the Sanskrit word for
The place value system,
THE DECIMAL SYSTEM
was developed in India
in 100 BC
India conquered and
dominated China culturally for 20 centuries
without ever having to send a single soldier
across her border
HU SHI H, Former Chinese Ambassador t o
It is very important to note
that some 2500 years ago
went from Samos to Ganges
to learn geometry…….
Theory of evolution
THE VEDA contain
Cosmology Medicine (Ayurveda),
Blood Circulation Rhinoplasty,
Amputation Caesarian and Cranial surgeries
Antibiotic herbs Atomic theory
Alchemical Metals Astronomy and Mathematics
Constellation science Botany and Animal
Algebra Arithmetic and Geometry
Planetary positions Eclipses
Cosmography Mathematical techniques
Force of Gravity The Decimal
Metallurgy Bacteria -Viruses
Vedic culture develops
Vedas passed down
verbally as ‘Shrutis’
The teacher (guru) is seen as one who can help dispel ignorance and lead
you to highest knowledge or ‘god’
One of the greatest
ancient India in the
field of education
built in the 4th
The Vedic knowledge
provided the basis
for a vibrant urban civilization
unmatched anywhere in the world
at that time
Tip of I ndia
NASA I MAGES OF RAM’S
Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 13:14 GMT
Indian civilisation '9,000 years old'
The story of Ram celebrated and enacted in many countries
Hindu temples outside India
NEPAL IS A
Hindu temples in
were destroyed by
Let us remember that...
India was the motherland of our race and
Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages;
that she was the mother of our philosophy,
mother, through the Arabs, of much of our
mother, through Buddha, of the ideals.
embodied in Christianity;
mother, through the village community,
of self-government and democracy.
Mother India is, in many ways, the mother
of us all.
'The Case for
THE PASS IN THE HIMALAYAS DOORWAY FOR
Hindu culture spreads to the west